Prada’s Dynamic S/S16 Collection Wants Men To Let Loose

The Prada S/S16 men’s show in Milan last year was a co-ed showcase with the women’s Resort collection, and drew inspiration from the concepts of “post-modest”, “post-industrial” and “post-pop art”.

BY BEN CHIN | Mar 18, 2016 | Fashion


So much has been made about the short shorts in Prada’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection for men that it’s made me wonder: “Who is the Prada man? Who did Prada make those shorts for?” No, I’m not referring to the male models and the Hollywood actors such as James McAvoy and William Defoe who peer out broodingly from campaign images, but mere mortals like us. They all look properly posh when suited up, but maybe even the more boyish campaign stars such as Ezra Miller and Ben Whishaw would find those shorts a sartorial challenge. So who the devil wears Prada?

This is not an idle question. Miuccia Prada has long been lauded in the industry as an intellectual designer. After receiving her PhD in Political Science, she was passionately involved in the women’s rights movement in Milan in the ’70s. When she left to join her mother in fashion, she brought that same energy and focus to her work. Everything that she sends down the runway is carefully considered, never accidental. The S/S16 men’s show in Milan last year was a co-ed showcase with the women’s Resort collection, and drew inspiration from the concepts of “post-modest”, “post-industrial” and “post-pop art”.

Although the two collections shared many of the same motifs—rabbits, rockets, race cars—the Prada woman came across as more sophisticated and worldly. The slender young men that Mrs Prada cast looked more like teenagers compared to their female counterparts, albeit ones with a keen sense of fashion. The show’s styling drove the point home even more. Half-zipped jackets draped nonchalantly over the shoulders, the hems of printed knits hurriedly tucked into waistbands and the slightly too-long shirt sleeves peeking out of jacket cuffs all suggested boys in men’s clothes. The formal pieces were unstructured and lightened, and the motifs themselves harked back to a more innocent time when imaginations were filled with space exploration and the excitement of fast cars. The result was high-impact pieces, with soft and simple silhouettes. In Mrs Prada’s hands, the Prada man is sexy, more human, non-conformist and relaxed.

As row upon row of soft, unlined grey and black jackets emerged, Prada’s obsession for exploring the concept of the uniform was apparent too. There were references to the industrial world in the form of exposed stitching—placing the workmanship of the métier front and centre—on jacket lapels and around the edges of blazers. The details of the pieces, such as large belt loops, patch pockets and chain zips, the use of utilitarian colours and materials including lambswool and “tela divisa” (“uniform cloth”), along with a rubberised synthetic material called “Surrey cloth” for the oversized blouson jackets and shorts, underscored this direction. The influence of the proletariat was apparent in the precise details of the pieces. It was constructivist ideology made cloth—the concepts of modest and luxury investigated in a dialogue of contrasts and dichotomies.

Mrs Prada didn’t neglect prints and patterns, however; she took the racing theme further with perforated sneakers emblazoned with lightning bolts, and even F1-esque racer uniforms. Perhaps this is her way of encouraging men to play dress up as their childhood heroes. But even within the same collection, she served up a different, racier kind of fun. After the colourful knits and the schoolboy backpacks, there was something decidedly grown up about the shine of the snakeskin shirts and the gleam of the leather shorts. Baggy tank tops and oversized, unbuttoned leather blousons exposed clavicles as the models strode down the runway with bare legs, looking strong and forceful yet with a certain vulnerability.

Towards the end of the show, the prints grew darker, and by the time the snakeskin shirts appeared, it was apparent that Prada’s boys had grown up. The mood was decidedly less light-hearted, but the guys were still dressed for a good time. Mrs Prada is nothing if not adroit at knowing what her well-heeled clientele want, and that is her nonconformist point of view, her utter disregard for traditional beauty. After all, she is the designer who introduced the concept of “ugly chic” to the world, something that she still champions in each of her collections. As for the man who shops at Prada, well, he’s not too concerned with fitting in and wears what he likes, convention be damned. After all, why so serious? It’s only fashion.

From: Esquire Singapore's March 2016 issue.